Canada capped a perfect run in the preliminary round of the world junior hockey championship with a 3-2 victory over the United States on Saturday night.
Mark Stone had a goal and an assist for Canada, which will face either Russia or the Czech Republic in Tuesday’s semifinal in Calgary. Jaden Schwartz and Brett Connolly also scored for Canada in front of 16,647. Scott Wedgewood made 30 saves for his second win of the tournament.
Charlie Coyle and captain Jason Zucker scored for the US in the third period. Jack Campbell, playing in his third straight world junior tournament, made 32 saves.
Canada (4-0) had already secured first in Pool B and a bye to the semifinals heading into the game, while the US (1-3) already knew it was headed for the relegation round.
So, what had been billed as a huge New Year’s Eve showdown lacked urgency. Bursts of spirited play and flashes of ill-will between the North American rivals were mixed with lulls. The Canadians were faster out of the gates than the Americans, building a 3-0 lead after the first period. The US picked up the pace after that.
Two American goals within a four-minute span starting at 9:49 of the third period put pressure on Canada to preserve the win. After the second goal, Canadian head coach Don Hay called a timeout to settle his players down.
”We knew the US had played yesterday and we wanted to get off to a great start with the fans behind us, and we were able to do that,” Hay said. ”The US showed their character and really battled back. The game will make us a better team.
”Whenever you have to deal with a little bit of adversity and a little bit of pressure, it’s good for you. You really see some things from your players when the game gets on the line and how they think the game.”
The Canadians outscored their opposition 26-5 in the preliminary round. They depart for Calgary on Sunday morning and have two days off before the semifinal.
Finland (3-1) secured second place in Pool B with a 4-0 win Saturday over the Czechs (2-2), who finished third.
As Pool B wrapped up in Edmonton, Sweden (4-0) beat Russia 4-3 in overtime to win Pool A in Calgary and earn a bye into the semifinals. Russia (3-1), meanwhile, will meet the Czechs in Monday’s quarterfinal, with the winner facing Canada.
Slovakia secured third in the pool and a quarterfinal berth with a 6-4 win over the Swiss earlier. They’ll face the Finns in the other quarterfinal. The US, Denmark, Switzerland and Latvia fell to the relegation round.